As one-quarter of the seminal Atlanta group Goodie Mob, Khujo is responsible for laying the groundwork for his hometown becoming the Mecca of Southern hip-hop. Comprised of Cee-Lo, T-Mo, Big Gipp and Khujo, the Mob broke through in 1995 with their politically-charged gold debut, Soul Food, while their 1998 follow-up, Still Standing, earned the crew a second gold plaque. Goodie Mob’s success would be short lived, though, as they released their disappointing third album, World Party, in 1999. Sprinkled with radio friendly singles such as the TLC-assisted “What It Ain’t,” diehard fans and critics shunned the group’s new musical direction. Shortly after, Cee-Lo surprised everyone by leaving to pursue a solo career. Then tragedy struck on June 24, 2002 when Khujo was involved in a devastating car accident that resulted in the loss of his right leg. Thankfully, the spiritual lyricist channeled his pain into his music, releasing his solo debut, The Man Not The Dawg, in 2002. That was followed by 2004’s One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, with the remaining members of Goodie Mob, and Livin’ Life as Lumberjacks, a collaborative project with T-Mo in 2005. Now, after a short hiatus, Khujo is readying his second solo effort, Mercury, which will be released through Koch Records later this month. XXLMag.com talks with the Southern pioneer about his new music, overcoming tragedy and the long-awaited Goodie Mob reunion.
You’ve stated you’re bringing back the old Khujo on your new album Mercury. How so?
The Khujo in the “Cell Therapy” days was a fiery MC. Mercury is an element you use in your thermometer to tell temperature. Mercury is [also] the hottest planet next to the sun. I was just really trying to relive those vibes when I said I brought the “Cell Therapy” Khujo with me.
Mercury doesn’t feature any production from longtime producers Organized Noize. Why is that?
I would’ve loved to have production from Organized Noize, but I just didn’t get a chance to. The timing wasn’t right. When you get that music bug, you gotta write. Atlanta has grown so much that you’re surrounded by all types of talent. I wanted to just get with some cats that had a new type of sound and really knew where I was coming from. I was just so eager to get my music out [that] I jumped on whatever beat was jammin’. We still cool [with Organized Noize]. I’ve been over in the Dungeon with Ray [Murray]. He got 1,015 beats over there. We [also] gettin’ ready to crank the Goodie Mob album up in July. We’re going into the studio to plan this thing out. We’ll see what we come up with.
We’ve been hearing about a Goodie Mob reunion for years. What’s been the hold up?
Everybody had different obligations. Gipp, he’s doing the Ali [of the St. Lunatics] album and he’s finishing up his own solo album. Cee-Lo is doing another Gnarls Barkley album and finishing up his [solo] record. Since we professionals at this, it really shouldn’t take us long to fulfill those obligations. That’s really what the deal was. A couple obligations had to be fulfilled so we [could] go ahead and get to this time right now.
How do you feel about Cee-Lo’s breakout success with Gnarls Barkley?
Man, I love it because we’ve been doing that same thing when we first dropped Soul Food—merging our Southern funk with Southern rock and metal. I remember when we used to come out in the shows and do “Cell Therapy” to [Black Sabbath’s] “Iron Man.” That was way back in the ’90s. Stuff is just coming all back around. Nothing is new under the sun. He elevated that thing, man. He went over there, got with Danger Mouse, went overseas and made some noise. I commend him on that.
Goodie Mob was known for addressing various social and political issues. Do you feel a lot of those messages went over people’s heads?
Well, some people heard those messages. To this day, people walk up to me and say, “I was seven-years-old when your record came out.” And you know a seven-year-old is gonna repeat what [they] hear. If somebody around him had some type of understanding and if he asked the right questions, he’ll know too. When you’re talking the truth, the truth always takes its time to get to the people. With lies, it gets out there so quick [’cause] they on the radio. [But] here comes the truth. You gotta be patient [’cause] it’s coming. You know the powers that be—if some of that truth get out in that raw and rare form, it’s gonna be rockin’ a lot of boats out there. There are a lot of smart individuals out here that’s younger than us that really do understand, in their heart, [what’s going on].
Is that being reflected in today’s music, though?
They’re doing what their environment is showing them. It’s like TV [and] movies—that’s what they’re doing. God told us, we’ll put you amongst some foolish people but don’t learn from their ways. We done learned their ways. We done learned everything, from how to murder to how to save a muthafucka. We done learned everything—whether positive or negative. It’s gonna take some old school cats and some new school cats to be like, “Man, let’s go and switch it on up. Let’s talk about something else.”
It’s been five years since your accident. How have you been holding up?
It’s affected [me] a lot. Sometimes I just be like, “Dawg, I sho’ miss my other half of my leg.” But I do got a prosthetic right now. It delays me sometimes from writing certain things, but once I think about it and really look at it, I start speeding back up again. It’s a weakness that everybody knows and I’m not the only person that has it. There’s like 150,000 people out there that go through a limb loss [each] year. So the best part about it is you’re not by yourself. I remember [when] I was little I use to see dogs in the street with one of their legs gone. I’d be like, “Damn, man, that’s kinda messed up, but shit, he gotta keep going.” I kinda put myself in that frame of mind. You out here, man, you wounded [and] it’s like a war. When you wounded in a war, you gotta patch that shit up and keep going and keep bussin’ as hard as you can. Keep writing the fiercest lyrics [and] finding the [best] beats because I can’t let that be an excuse. I just use that as firepower to really motivate and push myself to another level. It’s like, “Okay, now what you gonna do? You can’t be like that dog in the street. You gotta get out here and do it and work.”